Russia’s conflict in Ukraine is Putin’s. In general, any conflict ends when one side achieves a convincing victory. But that is extremely rare. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lasting for three weeks, the world is left with many unanswered concerns. The most important question, perhaps, is when and how the conflict will finish. In theory, any war ends when the issues that sparked it are resolved on the battlefield—when there is a decisive victory. However, this rarely occurs, as evidenced in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and a number of other countries.
As famed strategist, Carl von Clausewitz put it, war is just the continuation of policy through various means. War frequently ends with a less-than-ideal military conclusion for both sides, allowing for the reemergence of dialogue, politics, and diplomacy. So, before attempting to answer the question of when and how the Russia-Ukraine war will finish, let us first examine what precipitated it and what has occurred thus far.
What Has Been Going On In Ukraine?
Fighting has continued on multiple fronts, including on the outskirts of the capital, while a Ukrainian military campaign has been launched. The Ukrainian military also stated that they were launching operations south and east of the southern port of Mykolayiv. Russian forces have encountered stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops and volunteers, and have resorted to shelling residential areas in an apparent attempt to persuade the Ukrainian government to surrender land to the east and south of the country.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been severely damaged but remains under Ukrainian control. The southern city of Kherson, the first regional capital to be captured by Russia, is now under Russian control, but Ukraine claims to have carried out an airstrike on the city’s airport, and satellite data shows destroyed or damaged Russian helicopters. Russian bombs damaged a maternity hospital and a theatre in the embattled southern city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people had taken refuge in the basement.
Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, has urged the West for military assistance and has publicly criticized NATO’s refusal to enforce a no-fly zone over his nation to prevent Russian bombardments on civilian areas. Mr.Vladimir Putin Russia’s president has warned that any attack on Russian combat aircraft over Ukraine from another country’s territory will be greeted with an urgent military response.
According to Kyiv officials, at least four Russian brigadier generals have been killed in Ukraine since the invasion began, indicating flaws in Moscow’s military strategy.
Given the indiscriminate nature of Russian bombardments, security concerns over the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants, notably the one at Chernobyl, which is now under Russian control and run by a skeleton workforce of captive Ukrainians, have been a recurring subject in the war.
Reasons For Russia’s Invasion
- Russia launched its invasion in Ukraine on February 24th, to “block genocides” perpetrated by President, Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, which was backed externally by the US-dominated military alliance Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
- Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, demanded that Ukraine remain neutral in his dispute with Nato, which has expanded in Eastern Europe by admitting several former Soviet components.
- Another demand was that Ukraine not become a member of NATO. Russia wanted Ukraine to recognize Crimea as Russian territory (which Putin annexed in 2014 in reaction to Ukrainians overthrowing their pro-Russian president through huge rallies) and to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk, which are controlled by Putin-backed rebels, as independent nations.
What Are Ukraine’s Requirements?
- Ukraine’s goals are simple: a cease-fire and the evacuation of Russian soldiers, as well as legally binding security guarantees from a group of partner countries that would aggressively prevent attacks, “take an active part in the conflict on Ukraine’s side.”
- According to Marc Weller, professor of international law and former UN mediator, ensuring Russia’s military return to pre-war positions will be a red line for the West, which will refuse to permit another of Russia’s “frozen conflicts.”
- In the aftermath of Russia’s incursion, Ukraine has also softened its stance, with President Zelensky announcing that Ukrainians now understood that Nato will not admit them as members: “It’s a fact that needs to be acknowledged.”
When And How Will The War Finish?
This can be seen, Ukraine is open to discussing several of Russia’s most important requests. In fact, Ukrainian officials are hopeful that the war will finish by May, claiming that Russia is realizing that it is running out of military options and thus unable to establish a dummy government by force. Russia also said that some formulations of the agreement have been reached with Ukraine, with Kyiv’s neutrality status being considered “sincerely”. Therefore, according to Zelensky, the peace talks seem more realistic, but it takes longer for the outcome to be favorable to Ukraine. Putin, on the other hand, believes that “people’s security in eastern Ukraine” and Ukraine’s “dismantlement” are critical problems.
Given the current situation, consider the following scenarios for the war’s conclusion.
- Putin blasts Ukraine into submission, as he did in Syria and Chechnya, and installs a puppet government in Kyiv or annexes his Soviet-era constituent as part of Greater Russia, while Nato avoids direct war because Ukraine is not a member of the military alliance.
- Zelenskyy is forced to resign, and the new Ukrainian government is willing to work with Russia. Regardless of who leads Ukraine, Kyiv is made neutral. Alternatively, Ukraine may be demilitarized like Austria.
- With the status quo altered, Putin is obliged to suspend his military operation, allowing discussions and diplomacy to take effect. As the Ukrainians heroically resist Putin’s men, Russia’s lauded military has been observed faltering in its invasion plan.
- Ukraine is compelled to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as autonomous republics, as well as Kherson.
- Russia employs chemical weapons or targets the West’s munitions stockpiles in neighboring Poland, angered by the slowness of his offensiveness in Ukraine, causing Nato to intervene immediately. As a result, a protracted conflict between Russia and the West develops. Russian rockets, incidentally, landed in Ukraine’s relatively undamaged western area on Sunday, not far from the Polish border. Even though it’s Nato territory, Putin has stated, convoys carrying weapons from the West are “legitimate targets.”
- In the face of a collapsing home economy, Putin calls back his ambitions, and Ukraine will be what Afghanistan would have been to Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, or the US and its allies after 2001.
- With continuous armament and humanitarian aid deliveries from the West, Ukraine achieves an unlikely, courageous victory. Sanctions devastate Russia’s economy, and Putin’s popularity plummets, triggering a mass movement in the country, led by the opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, or possibly a palace coup from within the ruling class.
- Confronted by Nato and the European Union, and out of military options, a frustrated Putin opts for tactical or low-yield nuclear strikes, potentially triggering World War III and global disaster.
The Way Forward
Putin has a clear goal in mind: resurrecting the Russian Empire with himself as emperor. He appears to believe he is a genius after more than two decades of iron reign and no challengers to worry about. He also despises Western politicians, particularly the US president. Even before the attack on Ukraine, however, the Russian people were becoming more vocal about the mounting threat of carnage in both nations. Putin might be brought down as a result of this.